Press-Republican

Wednesday

April 2, 2014

Some land-tax reimbursement coming

MALONE — Franklin County is getting a $700,000 reimbursement from the state for unpaid taxes on disputed parcels in the St. Regis Mohawk land-claim area.

The county is actually owed more than $9 million, “but this is great. We’re happy to get that,” said Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury), who was instrumental in obtaining the payment.

The reimbursement was included in the budget agreement reached Monday between the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“This will certainly help the county with its cash flow with respect to collecting unpaid taxes,” County Treasurer Bryon Varin said. “We appreciate the efforts of Sen. Little, (Assemblywoman) Janet Duprey and the governor.”

‘WILL REALLY HELP’

Little (R-Queensbury) said she initiated the legislation after seeing another American Indian tribe in New York receive similar funding in the 2013 budget.

“Last year, there was an agreement to give money to the Senecas, and when we saw that happening, I spoke to the representative from Cayuga, who said he wanted $1 million,” she said. 

“I said, ‘So do I,’ for the Akwesasne Mohawks and Franklin County.”

She wrote letters, contacted and then lobbied the appropriate Senate Finance Committee members and others in the decision-making process and was able to garner the $700,000.

“It will really help,” the senator said, adding that “the governor is going to be restarting talks on land claims, so that is something that we could have a resolution to in the near future.”

LAND-CLAIM TALKS

There are 824 parcels in dispute, including one that has seen no town, school or county taxes paid since 1978.

When taxes are not paid, the county makes municipalities, including villages, whole by taking on that unpaid debt.

The county was owed about $9,083,000 as of Dec. 31, Varin said, adding that it has taken title to 90 of the involved parcels.

Cuomo announced last May that land-claim talks would resume and that terms of an agreement reached but never ratified in 2005 would be the starting point for discussions about the land the Mohawks say was taken illegally by New York state.

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